TOTO - CD  + Blu-Ray
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Sony Music Japan 

This was never originally intended to be a live album. It was in fact a live streaming event on 21st November 2020, which served to introduce the world to the new line-up through the pandemic so what we have here is a very simple video and recording of Toto, much closer to a rehearsal run-through than a theatre production. There’s no big light show, no swooping cameras from fifteen different angles, no running around the stage and of course, no sold-out audience. Up close and personal, this is as intimate as it gets.

 

As well as a new line-up, we also have a new set list and very welcome it is too. Of course, they play a couple of hits namely Rosanna and Hold The Linebut it is very refreshing to hear Kingdom Of Desire and You Are The Flower given an airing and the combination of songs shows how seamlessly the new members have slipped into the band. Needless to say, the musicianship is perfection but the new blood has given Lukather, Williams and Paich a boost and they have each upped their own performance accordingly. Lukather particularly is in fire and despite his earlier comment about Hold The Line, is enjoying himself immensely, once again providing a masterclass of guitar playing.

 

The overseas releases come in a double jewel case (CD + DVD or Blu Ray) with a simple four-page insert but the Japanese release includes a 32 page b/w booklet and upgrades the CD to BSCD2 so it’s worth spending the bit extra and speaking of extras, along with the entire show, the video disc also contains a three minute trailer for the show and a very good thirty minute documentary about it with thoughts from everyone involved.

 

This is Toto’s eighth live release in their 44-year career and each one has represented the band at that moment in time in their career. This one, for the first time, shows where they are heading rather than where they have been and although they are undoubtedly remembered by the average person for a string of sublime hits in the late seventies and early eighties, rest assured, if you have any doubts about Toto’s future, this release will convince you that they will be around for a long time yet and not just churning out the hits either. I eagerly await a new studio album.

 

Track List CD

Till The End

Hold The Line

Pamela

Kingdom Of Desire

White Sister

You Are The Flower

I Won’t Hold You back

Stop Loving You

Home Of The Brave

Rosanna

With A Little Help From My Friends

Blu-Ray

Live - as above (75 mins)

Documentary (30 mins)

Trailer (3 mins)

 

*Steve Lukather introduces the latter as ‘We play this next song because we have to’. Personally, having previously interviewed him, I’m not sure if he is being disparaging or if it’s one of his throwaway remarks but either way, he puts his heart into playing it.

Toto With a little help.jpg
The Ultra Vivid Lament.jpg

MANIC STREET PREACHERS - CD 
THE ULTRA VIVID LAMENT
Sony Music Japan 

In the three years since their last album, we have been through (and are still in) a world of drastic uncertainty. The pandemic, failed world governments and organisations, massive climate changes bringing extreme natural disasters, all of which have given us unprecedented personal losses both materialistic and tragically, family and friends. The members of MSP are no exception to this but they have a way of pouring their hurt into some exceptional music and one could argue that their best work comes from sadness and loss. If that is so, then what they have been through in the last three years, must be something quite devastating because this is their finest album since the mega-hit This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours.

 

There is no better band on the planet that writes melancholy lyrics into their songs like Manic Street Preachers and here they do it by the bucketful. The opening song looks back to their days in Japan at their peak; track three has sorrowful descending vocal whilst the title Happy Bored Alone speaks for itself. Musically, the piano drives the songs a little bit more than their previous releases. It is no secret that the band are big fans of ABBA and on this album, it shows. Don’t get me wrong, it is still the classic sound of MSP that we all know and love, it’s just that the piano adds a little bit more flavour to the mix. Vocally, the melodies are as souring as they ever were and the aforementioned The Secret He has Missed has a head-scratching ‘Where have I heard that before?’* chorus that combines said vocals, piano and sorrowful lyrics into one glorious piece of Pop. For music and lyrics though, there is no better combination than the final track, Afterending, which is sublime on every level.

 

It’s actually quite hard to follow that last track with something else to listen to as it is so melancholic but thankfully, the two bonus tracks on the Japanese edition, (despite their titles and lyrics) lift us up and place us back onto terra firma. Sony Japan are releasing this in two editions, firstly as just the album in a jewel case and secondly a Deluxe Limited Edition with an extra disc containing a complete set of demos for the album, the latter being housed in a tall hard case. Both editions contain the Japanese bonus tracks.

 

We seem to be in an era where great artists with experience are releasing albums that take us back to the good old days in these new bad days. Welcome back Manic Street Preachers, we missed you.

 

*I’m not telling you. 

 

Track List

Album

Still Snowing In Sapporo

Orwellian

The Secret He Had Missed

Quest For Ancient Colour

Don’t Let The Night Divide Us

Diapause

Complicated Illusions

Into The Waves Of Love

Blank Diary Entry

Happy Bored Alone

Afterending

My Drowning World 

These Dark Roads 

Japanese edition bonus track

 

Deluxe Ltd Edition Disc 2 (Demos)

Still Snowing In Sapporo

Orwellian

The Secret He Had Missed

Quest For Ancient Colour

Don’t Let The Night Divide Us (2 versions)

Diapause

Complicated Illusions (2 versions)

Into The Waves Of Love

Blank Diary Entry

Happy Bored Alone

Afterending